UPDATE at bottom of post.
Same shit different day.
Obama’s tax-cut deal with Republicans is filled with gifts for lobbyists and lawmakers, but that did not stop the squabbling on Friday, with Bill Clinton even back at the White House pleading the president’s case.
The tax deal, reached behind the scenes and still informal, now includes ethanol subsidies for rural folks, commuter tax breaks for their cousins in the cities and suburbs and wind and solar grants for the environmentalists – all aimed at winning votes, particularly from reluctant Democrats.
The additions are being hung on the big bill that was Congress’ main reason for spending December in Washington, long after the elections that will give Republicans new power in January. The measure will extend Bush-era tax cuts, averting big tax increases for nearly all Americans, and keep jobless benefits flowing.
Republicans generally liked that agreement, worked out by Obama and GOP leaders. Democrats generally didn’t, hence the add-ons.
It’s all expected to come to a decisive vote next week. Total cost by the latest congressional estimate: $857.8 billion.
……Almost $5 billion in subsidies for corn-based ethanol and a continuing tariff to protect against ethanol imports were included Thursday night for farm-state lawmakers and agribusiness lobbyists. Environmentalists won more grants for developers of renewable energy, like wind and solar.
For urban lawmakers, there’s a continuation of about-to-expire tax breaks that could save commuters who use mass transit about $1,000 a year. Other popular tax provisions aimed at increasing production of hybrid automobiles, biodiesel fuel, coal and energy-efficient household appliances would be extended through the end of 2011 under the new add-ons.
Slimy tactics like this are the best argument for the elimination, by law, of any riders or additions to bills that have nothing whatsoever to do with the legislation.
The Tea Party weighs in:
Conservatives aligned with the Tea Party ramped up pressure Monday on Republicans to vote down the tax deal before Congress.
A Tea Party umbrella group circulated a petition in opposition to President Obama’s tax deal with Republicans, while another high-profile GOP lawmaker aligned with the grassroots movement said he’s inclined to vote against it.
“The idea that this massive tax and spend bill has not yet even been written but may be voted on by the Senate this weekend is appalling, and has rightfully drawn the anger of the TeaPartyPatriots.org and other Tea Party activists, an anger that will not diminish,” said a petition crafted by the Tea Party Patriots.
The pressure comes before a vote in the Senate expected Monday afternoon on the fate of the tax deal the president struck with Republicans.
GOP lawmakers have been largely supportive of the deal, which extends all expiring income taxes for two years in exchange for an extension in unemployment benefits and middle-class tax credits, as well.
But some conservatives have balked. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has announced his opposition to the deal, as have some other Tea Party-aligned Republicans.
“Today, as I understand this, I’m likely to be a no,” argued Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), another Tea Party favorite, on Monday on Fox News.
Republican staffers in Congress have sought to promote conservatives’ endorsements for the deal to help give their members cover on the vote. FreedomWorks, another Tea Party umbrella group, endorsed the deal last week.
GOP staff is hoping to quell the idea of a rift — real or perceived — in the party’s congressional representation, especially after a sometimes-tense primary season where Tea Partiers went after establishment GOP candidates and incumbents.
Harry Reid’s DREAM (READ: amnesty for illegal aliens) went down in flames, so this is a blatant “fuck you” to the electorate.
There’s a lot of attention being paid to yesterday’s landslide vote in the House to prevent a big tax increase next year. If you’re a glass-half-full optimist, you will be celebrating the good news for taxpayers. If you’re a glass-half empty pessimist, you will be angry because the bill also contains provisions to increase the burden of government spending as well as some utterly corrupt tax loopholes added to the legislation so politicians could get campaign cash from special interest groups.
If you want some unambiguously good news, however, ignore the tax deal and celebrate the fact that Senator Harry Reid had to give up his attempt to enact a pork-filled, $1 trillion-plus spending bill. This “omnibus appropriation” not only had an enormous price tag, it also contained about 6,500 earmarks. As I explained in the New York Post yesterday, earmarks are “…special provisions inserted on behalf of lobbyists to benefit special interests. The lobbyists get big fees, the interest groups get handouts and the politicians get rewarded with contributions from both. It’s a win-win-win for everyone — except the taxpayers who finance this carousel of corruption.”
This sleazy process traditionally has enjoyed bipartisan support, and many Republican Senators initially were planning to support the legislation notwithstanding the voter revolt last month. But the insiders in Washington underestimated voter anger at bloated and wasteful government. Thanks to talk radio, the Internet (including sites like this one), and a handful of honest lawmakers, Reid’s corrupt legislation suddenly became toxic.
The resulting protests convinced GOPers, even the big spenders from the Appropriations Committee, that they could no longer play the old game of swapping earmarks for campaign cash. This is a remarkable development and a huge victory for the Tea Party movement. Here’s part of the Washington Post report on this cheerful development.
“Senate Democrats on Thursday abandoned their efforts to approve a comprehensive funding bill for the federal government after Republicans rebelled against its $1.2 trillion cost and the inclusion of nearly 7,000 line-item projects for individual lawmakers. …Instead, a slimmed-down resolution that would fund the government mostly at current levels will come before the Senate, and Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it will pass by Saturday. …The majority leader’s surrender on the spending bill marked a final rebuke for this Congress to the old-school system of funding the government, in which the barons of the Appropriations Committee decided which states would receive tens of millions of dollars each year. …Almost every Senate Republican had some favor in the bill, but as voter angst about runaway deficits grew before the midterm elections, Republicans turned against the earmark practice.”
This is a very positive development heading into next year, but it is not a permanent victory. Some Republicans are true believers in the cause of limited government, but there are still plenty of corrupt big spenders as well as some Bush-style “compassionate conservatives” who think buying votes with other people’s money somehow makes one a caring person.
In other words, fiscal conservatives, libertarians, and Tea Partiers have won an important battle, but this is just one skirmish in a long war. If we want to save America from becoming another Greece, we better make sure that we redouble our efforts next year.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.